Consent in meming

I stumbled across this buzzfeed post ( on Facebook last week — well actually, I saw a link to a Buzzfeed quiz declaring “which mom are you,” and a link to the follow-up(?) article. Originally I saw this “tag yourself” meme on Tumblr, and honestly I didn’t think much of it – there was a wealth of “tag yourself” posts going around and this seemed as normal as any other.

I read one of the mom’s blog posts ( — also linked in the Buzzfeed article. And she does raise several good points about copyright and image use, as well as stereotyping -“This meme is insulting and it’s using images of women without their permission. These are ACTUAL moms who are a lot more than the single-dimensional punchlines portrayed here.” She emphasized that the image was used without permission – it was stealing, essentially.

A user claiming to be the original creator of the meme commented on the mom’s blog ( and apologized. The comment thread continued on for a while, and the creator eventually said a final goodbye, insisting that the mom should just chill and wait for the post to fade away. The original tumblr post has been deleted, however.

Anyway, enough with summarizing. The mom condemned this kind of image stealing, even if it was for a somewhat innocuous purpose. However, as the creator pointed out, it’s way too late to delete every copy of that post. File all the DCMA takedowns you want, but the post has already spread so far and wide (all over Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, probably more) that it would be impossible to remove every single copy.

So, how can we prevent large-scale infringement like this? *Can* we prevent it at all? Why is it considered “okay” to swipe images from a Google search to use in memes, avatars, science presentations, desktop wallpapers? (I could try thinking of more examples but you get the idea). Also, one of the commenters on the thread threatened to dox (reveal and spread private information of the target) the creator of the post – “You are NOT anonymous either. Someone with even a moderate amount of skill can find your real identity, where you live, where you go to school, your social media accounts, etc. If we weren’t nice people who recognize that you are just a child, you would learn the meaning of the Internet term “dox” the hard way.” (direct link here). That’s not an acceptable response to image-stealing either.

In general, something rankled me about their responses, but maybe I was just annoyed about all the “this is what’s wrong with kids these days!” sentiment throughout the comment threads. Grown adults swipe pictures from Google Images all the time too…

Another aspect to this copyright stuff is protections of “fair use.” Generally, using copyrighted material for commentary/criticism or parody is fair use. “Transformative” use can also be considered fair use (like the mashups we’ve seen in class), but that’s pretty open to interpretation (and lawsuits). The “tag yourself as a suburban mom” meme was supposed to be a funny remix of the original “tag yourself” meme, so could it fall under parody or “transformative” use? And if it’s fair use, then the creator doesn’t need to ask for permission to use copyrighted content – so the mom’s argument that the creator never asked permission from her would be moot. Thorny questions…

Remember, anything you put on the internet will be seen by others… stay safe, kids. ❤

Consent in meming

2 thoughts on “Consent in meming

  1. There might be a disconnect here. I stand by the current copyright law and would challenge these concerned mothers to be more vigilant as to what they post on the internet. Let’s say you are walking on a street carrying an envelope of photos. You are heading to some place to treat these photos(I know everything is digital nowadays but stay with me here) and find that once you get there you are lost a photo. You dropped it as you were walking on the street and someone happened to pick it up. This unwitting citizen then takes said photo and distribute said photo for the lulz.

    If you draw a parallel to the digital world, it seems our “victim” here did not have her photo “taken” from her. She negligently left it out on the internet. Where in a sharing culture, it will be shared. If she secured said photo properly, this matter would be over theft, where the law is not as ambiguous. What these mothers are saying would go against all aspects of sharing we have today. I’ll take responsibility over censorship 24/7 every day of the week if you ask me.


    1. What do you mean by “securing?” Putting a watermark on the image? Writing out clear, definite rules for the use of the image? I agree that the moms should take more responsibility over posting their photos in the first place, but copyright laws exist so that internet users can share their content and expect that it will not be stolen (as the mom was arguing in this case – the creator of that meme post stole her photo and did not ask permission nor credit the source of the image).

      I think a more accurate “real life” analogy would be that the mom put up her pictures on a bulletin board, labelled with her name and her caption. But the meme creator took one of the photos and used it in one of her school projects. The mom had responsibility for posting the photos in the first place, but it’s fair to expect that they wouldn’t be stolen – the photos clearly belonged to someone.

      Also, just because you *can* do something, doesn’t mean it’s right – it’s very easy to download any image you see on the internet and use them for your own purposes, but this is why we have copyright laws. For example, artists often have their work stolen and reposted with no credit – and artists who rely on commissions and such to make a living will then miss out on potential customers. Not to mention clothing or merchandise companies stealing images to print on tshirts and what not, and making tons of money off of another person’s work.


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